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Reactions to Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

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Issue: 69 Section: Environment Geography: Canada Topics: boreal

May 26, 2010

Reactions to Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Officials, First Nations, activists offer praise, criticism

Boreal forest clearcutting in Alberta. Reactions to the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement have been mixed. Photo: ForestEthics

The announcement of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement has sparked a mix of sweeping pronouncements and passionate reactions. Below, we have compiled a small sampling. See also Dawn Paley's analysis of the agreement itself, published today.

Readers are invited to post additions in the comments sections at the bottom of the page.

"The Ontario government is encouraged to see environmental groups and forest companies working together to help develop a plan that would lead to both a healthy and a prosperous Canadian forest."

Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry

"As Minister of the Environment, I welcome the signing of this collaborative agreement between forest sector companies and environmental groups, which represents significant progress for the conservation and sustainable use of the boreal forest of Canada. I am pleased that the agreement has goals that will help the federal government to implement our interests related to conservation of species at risk."

Jim Prentice, Environment Minister

"It epitomizes what I have been saying all along—that you can successfully protect our natural resources while at the same time protecting jobs, and all in a way that will help make Canada a world leader in the future green economy."

Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party Leader

"For Greenpeace and the other major environmental organizations that negotiated this agreement, it is a mark of their maturity and accomplishment. They will change the direction and tactics of a defining campaign begun over 20 years ago. For many in government, industry and unions who said that you can not negotiate with or satisfy ENGOs, this proves them very wrong."

Fred Wilson, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Rabble.ca

"The Canadian Boreal Initiative's Larry Innes, David Suzuki Foundation, CPAWS, ForestEthics, and Greenpeace do not speak for the people of Fort Chipewyan. Any ENGO group out there who speaks on tar sands issues related to rare cancers being found in Fort Chipewyan or the boreal forest in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Manitoba are not speaking on behalf of any First Nations in any of these regions. They do not have the right to even mention First Nations rights at any event, campaign, rally or protest...the sovereignty of the First Nations people of Canada is at risk and will be extinguished if this carries on and I will not allow it to happen. We are not allowing ENGOs to bargain with our children's future, nor will we allow any ENGO to speak on our First Nation's behalf."

—Mike Mercredi, Fort Chipewyan

"I say that this is an ingenious bit of divide and conquer because it obliges the signatories to inform on anyone they are associated with (who does not go along with this deal) to the Forest Companies. This creates mistrust that weakens the larger environmental movement, weakens the Indigenous rights movement and weakens existing or emerging alliances between Indigenous People and ENGOs.

"The only way to avoid all this division is to remember that only a few individuals in the ENGOs who signed this agreement have actually read the entire agreement. The leadership of these groups only released an eight-page abridged version of the agreement to the public and the...leaked 39 pages of the agreement does not include any of the Schedules or maps that are also part of the agreement."

John H.W. Hummel

"Despite announcements made today, the devastation of Ontario’s forests continues largely unabated. Giant clearcuts, which level forested areas as large as pre-megacity Toronto (10,000 hectares), still make up 94 per cent of the area logged each year in Ontario. Canada’s logging industry employs only two thirds of the workers per tree cut that Sweden employs, and Ontario has still not respected the human right of Indigenous peoples to say 'No' to logging on their traditional lands."


"The agreement really does not protect woodland caribou, as it only defers logging and road construction in 72,205 hectares over the next two years and not the supposed 29 million hectares that the signatories told the public on May 18.

"The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, signed by Canadian forest products companies and several prominent environmental groups, will make it more difficult for ENGOs to effectively campaign against large-scale resource extraction by the Canadian forest industry and sidelines Indigenous peoples' rights to plan, manage and control activities on their traditional territories."

—Boreal Forest Network

"More troubling, the agreement provides much-needed legitimacy to timber and pulp industry efforts to log much, if not all, of the remaining 43 million hectares of Canada’s old growth boreal forests, and ultimately much of the caribou habitat after the moratorium lapses. The agreement uses fancy, meaningless worlds like "ecosystem-based" and "sustainable forest management" to describe first-time industrial logging of primary forests for toilet paper and other throw-away consumer items."

Glen Barry, Ecological Internet

"This neocolonial agreement to conservation, in which southern, centralized ENGOs presume to have authority over inherent Indigenous territories, only serves the Canadian state's deeper interest in accessing and exploiting resources at the cost of Indigenous nationhoods. Accessing resources by neutralizing Indigenous Nations has always been the colonial state's imperative; as Canadian legislation contours both ENGOs and forestry corporations, and as the Canadian tax coffers will continue to benefit from the exploitation of the Boreal, the ENGOs involved have demonstrated fabulously their role of doing the state's dirty work."

Damien Lee

"The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council [CSTC] is calling on all environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) to improve their policies on working with First Nations communities, particularly CSTC communities that have unresolved land and resource claims in British Columbia, Canada. At a minimum these ENGOs should be adhering to, supporting and promoting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which sets an international minimum standards on how First Nations and Indigenous people should be treated. This includes the free, prior and informed consent of our people to decide what happens in our territories."

Carrier Sekani Tribal Council

"Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy says the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, recently signed by Canadian forest product companies and environmental groups, disrespects First Nations rights.

"'Nobody has the right to develop an agreement that affects any of NAN’s lands and resources without consultation, accommodation and consent from us,' said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy. 'This Agreement was made without our knowledge and treats NAN as a stakeholder—not a government.'"

Nishnawbe Aski Nation

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AFNQL welcomes the agreement

"The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) appreciates the initiative concerning an agreement for the conservation of the boreal forest announced yesterday between forestry companies and environmental groups. 'The intentions are good but must obviously be backed up by a genuine and tangible willingness to involve the First Nations that have rights over these lands' declared the Chief of the AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.

The AFNQL appreciates that the agreement recognizes that the Aboriginal people have ancestral rights, treaty rights and a title protected by the Constitution, as well as legitimate interests and aspirations. The agreement is "intended to be without prejudice to, and in accordance with, those rights and title. The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), FPAC members, and ENGOS (environmental non-governmental organizations) believe both successful forest conservation and business competitiveness require effective involvement of Aboriginal peoples and their governments. The signatories are committed to such involvement taking place in a manner that is respectful of and engages these Aboriginal rights, title, interests, and aspirations."

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